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VOL. 126 | NO. 234 | Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mergers Latest in Baker Donelson Expansion Plans

By Andy Meek

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Since June 2003, the Memphis-based law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC has grown from 270 lawyers and public policy advisers to 625.

Between October and November of this year, the firm also branched out into two new states, merging with firms in Texas and Florida.

The mergers deepen the firm’s bench strength and roster of services. And there’s still more growth to come for the firm that’s ranked as the 73rd largest law firm in the country.

“Over the last three years the economy has been challenging, and we slowed our growth considerably during that period so we could better assess where the market’s going and what the opportunities are,” said Ben Adams, Baker Donelson’s chairman and CEO. “We feel like we’re not out of the woods yet, but there seems to be some more stability in the legal market lately than there was. So we’re trying to take advantage of opportunities in certain practice areas and certain geographic areas.”

Which is why when talking about where the firm goes next after its two major expansions over the last several weeks, Adams said the firm would love to add to its practices in most every city the firm currently operates in.

He said the firm also is in ongoing discussions with one or two potential hires in most of those same cities.

The firm’s attorneys and public policy advisers are currently spread across more than 30 practice areas to serve a broad range of needs. Areas especially mentioned for growth potential by Baker Donelson’s CEO include its health care practice, its public company representation, its intellectual property practice and its energy practice.

The firm also has its eye on Atlanta for expansion opportunities, and Adams said there are regulatory opportunities in Washington that could materialize.

“You’re looking for people where one plus one can equal three,” Adams said. “Maybe they’ve got a client they want to offer a broader range of services to or a broader geographic footprint. We’re also looking for people with expertise we need more of. And in the two new markets, we want to establish more critical mass.”

With an already established presence in Louisiana, Texas was a logical next choice for Baker Donelson. And in October, the firm announced its merger with the Houston law firm of Spain Chambers.

Spain Chambers, which is taking Baker Donelson’s name, is a full-service law firm representing everything from Fortune 500 clients to privately held companies and multinational corporations.

“Merging with a firm with the national reputation of Baker Donelson offers our clients an expanded platform with international reach while receiving outstanding professional service,” Bradley Chambers, managing shareholder of Spain Chambers, said in a statement.

It was a similar story a month later in November, when Baker Donelson merged with the Orlando firm of Litchford & Christopher Professional Association.

“Being able to significantly expand the range of legal counsel that we can offer to Litchford & Christopher’s clients was key for us,” Donald Christopher, who will serve as office managing shareholder for the Orlando location, said in a statement. ”Just as important, we wanted to do so with a firm that shares our commitment to personalized client service. Baker Donelson brings all that and more.”

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